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REVIEW: Knight in Retrograde – Lee Hunt

REVIEW: Knight in Retrograde - Lee Hunt

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Would you trade uncertainty for stagnation, chance for god, invention for inertia, thought for dogma?

Four years have passed since the events of Dynamicist and war is on the horizon. Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory went to the New School, hoping to change the world. They thought that mathematically based dynamics, the enlightened age’s answer to wizardry, would give them the power to make everything better.Their hopes were naive.

Protestors are condemning the creation of a new vaccine. The city is seeing a series of hangings; is it murder or sacrament? The cloaked man is back stalking students. The long-absent demons Skoll and Hati reappear and begin slaughtering whoever they meet. But the real question is, will Nimrheal return? If he does, who will die first?

Uncertainty is inspiring fear, and inventions are not making the world better, only more complicated. The terrified civilians don’t want dynamics and reason. They want the word of Elysium and the return of the Methueyn Knights.Koria fears the world faces an awful conundrum: that if the Knights return, Nimrheal will stay.

Will Robert, Koria, Eloise and Gregory choose to transform into angelic knights or, at the cost of such heavenly communion, instead banish Nimrheal? What price will be paid? If a new Methueyn Knight rises, will the age of invention disappear forever?

The Review

I just finished the last book in Lee Hunt’s fantasy “Dynamicist” trilogy. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a mainstream fantasy book, let alone a whole trilogy. I’ve reviewed the earlier two books (The Dynamicist and The Herald) earlier, and it’s been a pleasure to watch Hunt’s writing skills grow and flourish over the course of the trilogy.

Knight in Retrograde is the best of the bunch, as the flashes of fast paced action that animated parts pf the second book shift things into high gear here. Not halfway through the novel, there’s a devastating scene that would serve well as a story climax, and yet the book keeps building from there. It’s an adrenaline junkie’s dream.

Hunt earns this one, with all the work he put into the first two books, especially in character building and the trilogy’s fascinating magical system, one that requires mathematics to be tamed to the point where it won’t kill the practitioner.

There are a few disturbing bits that are not for the faint-of-heart, including the loss of one of the main character’s babies in utero and some rather graphic death scenes – why just kill someone in a run-of-the-mill fashion when you can break both their arms, ram a speak through their skull and then burn them to a crisp? I hated him for killing off one of my faves – well, two, actually, but one was technically murdered at the end of the last book. Still, each of these moments is deployed with almost surgical precision to heighten the tension and move the plot.

I have a few small quibbles for Hunt. One character’s reaction, in particular, seemed way less intense than I would have expected, given the circumstances. And the ending was a bit more abrupt than I would have preferred. Yes, everything was resolved, and yes, we know who lived and who died. But I would have enjoyed a quick glimpse into their lives after the crisis, especially after what Koria and Robert gave up to get there.

The book also needs a map, in my humble opinion. I talked to Hunt about this, and he has his reasons for leaving it out. But I truly missed having one to refer to as characters ran hither and yon across this world.

Those are small quibbles. Overall I loved this book. It kept me hooked from the first scene, and the eventual arrival of the series’ big bad, Nimrhael, was worth the wait. The demon makes for a mysterious, dangerous, and yes, frightening adversary, his inhumanity chilling to both characters and readers.

And speaking of the characters, I ended up caring for each one, especially the insecure and sometimes bumbling Heylor Style and the giant knight Sir Eloise Kyre, who never met a challenge she didn’t want to barrel through, sword swinging. The body count in this book approaches Red Wedding territory, and none of your favorites are safe, so be warned. But each death sets the stage for things to come.

There were also a few LGBTQ characters in this one, though they weren’t central. It was nice to see the diversity.

As I mentioned in a previous review, the Dynamicist trilogy is deserving of one of the highest honors I can give it. It’s different. And it’s also damn-well thought out and plotted, keeping me on the edge of my seat for days. I came this close to finishing it last night, and then tossed and turned for hours trying to figure out how things would work out at the end. I wasn’t even close.

I also loved the way that Hunt didn’t take the easy way out with the ending, instead opting for a more thoughtful course.

I highly recommend the Dynamicist trilogy, and Knight in Retrograde in particular – Hunt has crafted something truly special here.

If you love high fantasy, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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